Signing bonuses. New hire perks. Employers are trying everything to woo workers back

Updated: May. 22, 2021 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Restaurants are coming up with new ways to get employees to come back to work.

The state’s unemployment rate is currently at 8.5%.

But restaurants are still having a hard time finding workers.

Some blame generous unemployment benefits while others cite workers moving to the mainland or restaurants not offering enough hours or opportunities for tips.

“The hiring is our biggest struggle right now,” said Dani Porter, the general manager of Waicoco, a brand-new restaurant in Kaanapali, Maui.

She said opening in the middle of a pandemic has had its challenges.

“We’ve had some challenges with staffing,” she said.

Porter is not alone. Many businesses are getting creative and offering incentives to attract more hires.

“I’ve heard of sign-on bonuses. I’ve heard of referral fees, where restaurants are incentivizing their employees to help them find additional employees,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, Hawaii Restaurant Association executive director.

“We do give a dining credit for our team members that bring in candidates who have employment with us for 90 days,” Porter said. “I know hotels are definitely doing $250 sign-on bonus after 90 days.”

New state criteria for unemployment requires proof claimants are applying, to make at least three job search contacts per week. Random investigations will be done to keep claimants honest.

“Many of restaurants have been letting me know that they have a lot of openings. They would like to extend their hours,” Matsuoka said.

This is what’s happening at Waicoco, which is only open for breakfast right now but plans to open for dinner next week.

Porter is calling those on unemployment to apply, even those who don’t have food and beverage experience.

“Even if it’s outside of the restaurant industry. We have a number of new hires who have had construction skills or retail skills.”

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